Date: October 12, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Gutsy Wooster comes up one short

Sue Wooster’s dream run at the US Senior Women’s Amateur fell at the last hurdle overnight, but not before a bold crack at the final.

The Australian fell 3&2 to Oregon’s Lara Tennant in a high-quality finale at the Orchid Island Golf and Beach Club in Florida, with the American effectively at even par when the curtain dropped with a concession on the 16th green.

It was a bitter-sweet moment for Wooster, 56, who even in defeat earnt exemption into the 2019 US Senior Women’s Open, a three-year exemption into the US Senior Women’s Amateur and exemptions into the 2019 US Women’s Amateur and US Women’s Mid-Amateur.

“I’m pretty stoked. I mean, obviously I'm upset because I lost because I wanted to win … but if you said at the start of the week I would've been in the final, I would've been over the moon,” the Victorian said.

“I'm not accustomed to the (Floridian) conditions … I don’t even like this sort of grass (and) haven't really played on it much.

“So I'm proud of myself. I think tonight I'll sit back, have a few drinks and feel I did pretty good overall.”

Wooster, who lives in Lysterfield near Melbourne, was only three over when the match ended, again highlighting a quality final.

But Tennant, of Portland, was rock solid throughout after a fast start and didn’t lose a hole until she three-putted the 15th when she had Wooster dormie 4-down.

“I don't know if I had opportunities to like eventually win it, but I could have put some pressure on her and I didn't,” Wooster said.

“I just couldn't hole the putts today. I was just missing and probably just over-reading a bit and nothing was working.

“I hit some nice shots in (but) just couldn't capitalise. When I three-putted 13, I knocked my chances down a lot getting over the line. That gave her a breather.

“I was trying to be aggressive (but felt) like I was in between clubs a lot.”

Wooster said she had been urged to play aggressively by her son, Tyler, in a long-distance pre-match pep talk.

“He said: `Mum, I'm so proud of you. No matter what happens today, you're the champion. Have courage because you're going to need courage to win this, and you're going to have to hit the shots. Pick a target and just go for your shots. Whatever happens, you've done awesome.’

“That’s pretty cool.”

Wooster, a four-time Australian Mid-Amateur champion who also has multiple national crowns in New Zealand and Canada on her resume, had never failed to reach match play in a USGA event, but had never been past the Round of 32.

She watched as Tenant rolled in a birdie on the opening hole to go 1-up, then made a 12m birdie putt on the third only to see the American match from close range and avert the threat.

The next five holes were all halved in pars until a bogey on the long ninth sent Wooster 2-down at the turn and that’s when Tennant turned the screw.

“You start thinking about just parring in and letting your opponent play really well to beat you,” Tennant said.

“So I wasn't as aggressive in my approach shots. I made sure on No.16 I had plenty of club to get over the water. You just play a little more defensive, smarter golf.”

The pair embraced warmly on the final green, a mark of great respect.

And for Wooster, there might also have been a hint of relief that the gruelling week was over, as well.

“Yeah, golf gets harder as you get older. To play 10 rounds of golf in eight days, or something like that, it is a challenge,” she said.

“It's not just physical, it's mental. You fatigue mentally and then you don't sleep a lot. Well I don't. I'm that sort. I over-think things and just tossing around in bed all night last night.

“But you've got to deal with that. Sometimes that can affect your performance.”

It caps an amazing North American journey this winter for Wooster and her husband, Keith.

The pair have experienced victories at the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst and defended Wooster’s Canadian senior crown while winning two others in Ontario.

She also made the cut in the inaugural US Senior Women’s Open and finished 40th among the who’s who of the sport in July.

And she’ll now get that chance again as a result of her efforts this week.

“It was the best tournament I've ever played because it was an Open. That's very special to be able to play in an Open.”

Wooster will now return home and play some key events on the domestic scene, including representing Australia in matches against New Zealand.